01 August, 2011

Form over Content? Blasphemy! (?)

I followed a friend's link to this page on Blake Andrews' blog and was a little miffed that the winner of the Form vs Content poll (in a photograph) was, in fact, form. Iconic images of our times immediately jumped to my mind (man blocking tank in Tiananmen, little Vietnamese girl running from her village being napalm'd, the recent picture of a couple kissing during the Vancouver riots, McCurry's Afghan girl, ...), but before I could mentally send a flurry of vile words in some of the choicest language I know to all the voters, my brain hammered sense into me. The above pictures, iconic though they may be, aren't 'great' images. When it comes to the great, the buck stops at Monsieur Cartier-Bresson. Aquila from 1952; Behind St. Lazare station, Paris; Brasserie Lipp 1969; are all 'everyday' images with only the photographer's composition elevating them to greatness. Even many of Ansel Adams' works are these 'everyday' images (Jeffrey's Pine and Church in Mexico come to mind immediately).

Continuing with this train of thought, I realised that painters can get away with getting truly captivating scenes of everyday sights whereas photographers have to work quite hard at finding that something 'extra' that really catapults the image. (Of course, painters do have the harder job in the first place by nature of their work.) I can't find a finer example of this than Johannes Vermeer's "Street in Delft". A true masterpiece which in photograph form would simply be relegated to the 'good' pile. I would put Albrecht Durer's "Large Turf", Vermeer's (again) "View of Delft" and Correggio's "Portrait of a Man" in the same pile as masterpieces with no amazing/awesome/stupendous shit happening in them. I'm sure I could come up with a tonne of other stuff that support the form argument if I cared to run more web searches, but I don't, so there.

Johannes Vermeer Van Delft - Street in Delft
Can you picture yourself caught staring at the brick-work if this were a photograph?

Damn, I wish I could paint like that.

No comments: